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The A to Z of Women in Film in 2014: Part 1

The A to Z of Women in Film in 2014: Part 1

In some ways, it’s been a year like any other. Some extraordinary female talent has broken through. Some miraculous, female-led stories have been told. And yet the industry as a whole has done its best to remain as steadfastly focused on the male perspective, behind and in front of the camera, as it has been since any of us can remember. The following, therefore, is evidence both of how much work there is left to do, and how much potential there is to get it done, if only circumstances would allow.
Here, in alphabetical order, is a survey of the good, the bad, and the unforgettable when it came to women and film in 2014. 
One of the hottest names to emerge from this year’s Sundance was the director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the quickly dubbed “Iranian Vampire Western.” Amirpour’s hip style and filmmaking sensibility have since made her a darling of the indie-film scene. Such attention is richly deserved, but the real victory will be when someone steps up to fund her next film.
B is for Belle
Belle was one of the highest-grossing indie releases of the year in America, which is impressive for any low-budget British film, let alone one which made so radical a move as to center a period costume drama around a woman of color. Just as gratifying as the film’s success is the fact that it appears to have set career cogs turning for director Amma Asante, with the big-budget Unforgettable taking off at Warner Bros, as well as fast-rising star Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
C is for Celine Sciamma
Avoiding the fate of so many women directors, 36-year-old French director Celine Sciamma’s production rate only seems to increase. Her third feature, Girlhood, launched at Cannes to rave reviews, prompting some to wonder why it hadn’t made it into the main competition. Let’s hope its revelatory but sadly unusual perspective — with screen time almost exclusively occupied by underprivileged young black women — had nothing to do with that.
D is for Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay manages a fine balance between revelling in being a role model for other women of color in directing, and telling us that the last thing we should be focusing on is her race or gender. Either way, those who were aware of her before her ascendency to the mainstream this year can only find it gratifying. An Oscar nomination is one thing, but if there’s any justice, the success of Selma will leave DuVernay open to direct whatever the hell she feels like next.
E is for Editing
Boyhood has been gaining deserved attention all year for its director Richard Linklater, but less heralded is the equally unprecedented feat of its editor, Sandra Adair. Involved in the project for the entire twelve years of its production, she seems likely to get her moment in the spotlight now that awards season has come around. Despite editing’s reputation as a female-friendly discipline, should Adair claim the Academy Award, she would only be the second woman to do so since 1987.
F is for Feminist
There have been plenty of Hollywood actors happy to announce themselves as feminists (take a bow, Meryl and Co.), but in 2014 it appeared to reach a tipping point, with A-list celebrities of both genders proud to take ownership of the dreaded F Word. While in certain cases there is a “jumping on the bandwagon” element to it all, it can only be a good thing when feminism gains cultural currency like this. Now, let’s hope the same can be said for the movement’s actual aims.
G is for Gone Girl
There was heated debate over whether its controversial narrative was a good thing or a bad thing for women. But the success of the film points to a future where individual films need not be representative of an entire gender. Either way, Gone Girl can be celebrated as a rare case of a woman adapting her own novel into a huge studio screenplay, featuring a female protagonist of her creation, and making a shit load of money at the box office.
H is for Hollywood Sexism
The statistics on the number of films starring and directed by women are so depressing they hardly bear repeating. When Jennifer Lawrence, arguably the biggest Hollywood star to have emerged this century, still suffers from institutionalized pay disparity (as apparently revealed in the recent Sony leaks), you know the problem is all-encompassing. And let’s not get started on the fact that she also had to suffer the indignity of those other highly publicized leaks, or the fact that one of the two current female studio heads could be out of a job any day now. Yes, something is rotten in Hollywood.
I is for Ida
Among the biggest box office surprises of the year was Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida creeping up to $3.7 million theatrical in the US. And while that may be only a tiny fraction of Hunger Games-type numbers, it was a huge victory for a black and white subtitled Polish film which focused on two utterly different but equally compelling female characters to mesmerising effect. If you didn’t catch it, it is more than worth seeking out.
J is for Jennifer Kent
Ana Lily Amirpour was not the only woman taking the horror genre to intriguing new places this year. The Babadook may have won over the critics first, but it also got an impressive number of distribution deals in an ever-tricky sales climate. With Kent reported to have had a meeting with Warner Bros for Wonder Woman, she is clearly getting herself into the right rooms. Let’s hope her next project announcement comes sooner, rather than later.
Keira Knightley was back with a vengeance this year, not only on screen but in a series of unapologetic interviews for her various feature releases (most notably LaggiesBegin Again, and The Imitation Game). With a supporting Oscar nomination seemingly very likely, her opportunities for high-profile commentary on the industry sexism she experiences first-hand are only set to increase in the new year. Thank god, then, that she declared herself “so glad feminism is back on the table.”
L is for Laura Poitras
Speaking of Oscar, Laura Poitras shot herself into contention for a golden statuette the moment her Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour was unveiled. This, of course, is the type of honor that Poitras hardly seems the type to covet, even if she did feel able to return to the US for the ceremony. But such buzz can only help bring exposure to her film, long and hard in the making, and widely acclaimed as one of the truly essential cultural documents of 2014.  
M is for Maleficent
Angelina Jolie has had a busy year, having completed Unbroken, her first English-language feature, and already shot her follow-up, starring herself and husband Brad Pitt. While reviews for the former so far have been mixed, what remains undisputed is her continuing box-office clout. Amid a summer of male-led blockbusters, Maleficent took in a staggering $757 million worldwide and currently ranks as the third biggest film of the year globally.

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